About 50 students across all grade levels walked out of Skeena Middle School Wednesday in protest of staffing changes announced by the school district last week.
In a news release, Coast Mountains School District 82 said current Skeena Middle School principal Phillip Barron and vice-principal Cory Killoran would be leaving their administrative positions for teaching positions in September, meaning the school’s top leaders would be leaving.
The current principal at Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton, Cindy Sousa, was appointed to be the middle school’s new principal.
The students walked out of their classes at 11:11 a.m. and gathered outside the Coast Mountains School District 82 head office on Kenney St., chanting “Save our principals!” in unison.
“It came out of nowhere,” says Grade 9 student Ryhan Nester.
Nester says students were upset when they were told Barron and Killoran would be taking teaching positions after refusing to relocate to administrative positions at a New Hazelton school. They were also told both Barron and Killoran would be teaching at Thornhill Elementary, not Skeena Middle School.
Upset at the changes, Nester says the students didn’t have anything organized but quickly gathered together, walked out of their classrooms, and headed toward the school district’s office.
“They’re not only good principals, but good people as well. They look after us like we’re family,” Nester says.
“Many of our teachers said we could do this, and that this is up to us. They can’t say anything because they could lose their jobs.”
“Students have voices too and we can fight for our rights,” added Grade 9 student Brianna Onstein.
The students were not only protesting changes to their school administration but changes to other schools in the district as well.
Suwilaawks Community School principal Pam Kawinksy will be assuming a teaching position, with current vice-principle Julia Jacobs stepping into the role to replace her.
The current vice-principal at Mount Elizabeth Middle/Secondary School in Kitimat, Christine Byrd, was appointed as the school’s new principal.
The changes have also left vacancies at the schools affected. CMSD82 is now conducting a Canada-wide search for a new principal for Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School, and new vice-principals for Cassie Hall Elementary, Mount Elizabeth Secondary School and Skeena Middle School.
Missing from the school district’s news release is a reason indicating why these staffing changes are necessary. “I’ve grown up with Mr. Barron and Mr. Killoran playing hockey with their kids, I’ve known them my whole life. They shouldn’t have to leave,” says another student.
Nester says the students plan to stay as “long as it takes” until the district gives them an explanation for the changes.
At the time of this posting interview requests with the school district have not been returned.